Room Project #1: Our Upstairs Den

room project #1 upstairs den
Starting to tackle the first room project in our house, our upstairs den aka family room. Today I will tell you how I removed the dated cornice board.

Room Project #1: Demo in our Upstairs Den Begins!

Our house was built in 1963 and I love it!

We call the living area upstairs in our home the den. It’s cozy and one of our main gathering places, with a fireplace and a big built-in bookcase.

As happy as this room is, it definitely needs to be freshened up. And one of the first things to go is this big wooden cornice over the window.

outdated cornice board

As you can see, this room is pretty dark!

I plan on painting it with Sherwin-William’s Alabaster, a nice warm white, but first it’s time for a little demolition.

How to Remove the Cornice:

  1. Figure out how it is attached to the wall.  This was trickier than I expected, since I looked all over and didn’t see a single screw! I started pulling on it to see if I could figure it out, and I realized the bottom was pulling away but the top was not. cornice board edge

I finally got a chisel and used a hammer to push it back behind the small gap I had created to try to pry the cornice loose. There were no screws, only nails, so it was going to require brute strength and a little finesse to get it down.

2. After prying and yanking and pulling, one side started to give. I realized as its weight came free that this thing was solid wood and HEAVY!

If it fell down all at once, it could damage anything in its path.

Remove All the Things

Bearing the weight of the cornice in mind, I quickly pulled all of the furniture out of the way.

I tried to figure out its path (if it fell) and covered the hardwood floor with blankets so it wouldn’t dent or scrape it.

One End On the Floor: Now Things Get Exciting!

I’m sorry to say I don’t have pictures of this part, but I was nervous about leaving the cornice with one side down. I didn’t want to go too far in case it suddenly broke free from the wall!

Don't Do This By Yourself

This would have been a lot more doable with another person on standby to help.

I was surprised by:

  • how heavy it was
  • how long it was (shouldn’t have been a surprise, I’ve been staring at it for almost 10 years, but hey)
  • how hard it was to get it free from the wall

Picture, if you will, a middle-aged woman in sweats, at the top of a rickety ladder, pulling with all her might on a piece of wood seemingly welded to the wall. Now imagine what would happen if that thing suddenly broke free and said woman went flying off the ladder.

ER, anyone?

Yes, only three nails, but boy were they in there!

Or maybe I am just a weakling.

Houston, the Ship has Landed

OK, maybe no one actually said that to Houston.

After yanking on the second end with all my might for a while, it was apparent that the nail was in at such an angle that I would not be able to free it using conventional methods.

There was also a wooden beam attached to the ceiling that made the removal particularly tricky on that end of the cornice.

So I grabbed the end that was on the ground and used it like a giant lever, walking backwards with it into the room while watching the attached end like the proverbial hawk.

The attached end started making noises of defeat and I moved to the center of the cornice as I continued to walk backwards into the room. That way I would be able to keep it from falling all the way to the ground when it came free. Right?

I also positioned the ladder so that (hopefully) it would stop it from crashing down, buying me a little time.

Turns out this was an unnecessary precaution, as the thing wrenched free finally without a fight and I was able to walk it out and carefully set it on the kitchen floor.

Hey, hey physics.

Hooray, hooray! Victory over the Cornice!

With the board out of the room, it was time to stand back and pat myself on the back.

I managed to get that thing off without busting a window…or a lamp…or my face.



Time for a Little Clean Up

As long as the ladder was out, I could get on top of that window casing and give it a good cleaning.

There was a lot of pine straw stuck into the top of the casing.

Pine straw?  Intriguing.

I cleaned and dusted and generally put things back where they were supposed to be.

While the unpainted section of paneling over the window is not beautiful, this was all I had time to tackle today! It felt like a big accomplishment!

What's Next?

Glad you asked!

I have a whole punch list of things I want to do in this room which I will detail soon, but the biggest next thing is prepping to paint the room.

It’s not a big room, but it does have a big built in bookshelf which needs sanding, so I anticipate that taking a little time! And anyone who has painted paneling which is unfortunately not flat at all can tell you it’s a bear. But a worthwhile bear, no?

I cannot wait to share the results with you!

Have You Ever Started a Project By Yourself and Realized It Was a Two-Person Job?

Let me know in the comments!


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